Change is a strange thing. We all look at change as something to expect and we all say that change is good and yet when we are in the midst of change we sing a different tune. Maybe it has to do with how change is handled. Maybe it has to do with who is leading the change and why the change is happening. But maybe it just has to do with the fact that by nature we are creatures of habit and change is the antithesis of that. Change means doing something differently, behaving differently, breaking a habit, foraging into the unknown. So although in theory we all say we should embrace change, by nature we tend to resist it.
Take for example the Muscular Dystrophy telethon. This year after 46 years Jerry Lewis was not a part of it. Lewis had been the face of MDA, so much so that we began to look at the young children he advocated for as Jerry’s kids. For years he brought the biggest and brightest stars out to stump for the MDA. One year Frank Sinatra even got Dean Martin to appear, the first time the feuding duo had been on stage together since their break up many years prior. The show was a 21 hour marathon and we all watched as Jerry sleeplessly made it through, loosening his tie, looking bleary-eyed but always fighting for the cause he had taken on as his own. And then at the very end the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and with tears in his eyes he would thank the audience for their generous support. It is estimated that over the years Lewis garnered billions of dollars for the MDA. And now, matter-of-factly, Lewis is no longer the MC of the show.
Don’t get me wrong, it is my understanding the Lewis could be one heck of a bastard to work with and very difficult to manage. I don’t excuse that. Success can create monsters in people and only the truly successful remain humble through it all. But there is no denying that he produced big time. He created a brand for the MDA that many other charitable organizations wish they could emulate. To dismiss him matter-of-factly was a poor choice on their part. And despite everything they were still able to raise 61 Million without him. They may feel validated. But I wonder if that would have been possible had he not created the foundation for doing so.
Now, was it time for Jerry to hang up his hat? Probably. But there is class and there is class-less and I think the MDA appeared more the latter than the former. It is easy to dismiss someone simply because they appear no longer relevant or too old. But to fail to consider the body of work over four decades and recognize it appropriately is bush league. Every year I have given to the MDA but I did not this year. I am disappointed in how they handled the whole situation. There is something to be said for time and tradition. And although it was probably time for a change, they handled the change very poorly.
So I guess I am resisting this change at least for this year. Change is hardly ever easy but it can be successfully accomplished if it is appropriately managed. This could have been the year of the tribute to Jerry. Instead the MDA walks away with mud on its face and a little less money in its pocket, at least from the lack of my donation. It may be a drop of water in the ocean but at least I feel validated. And, thank you Jerry for entertaining us all these years. You deserved a little better than how you were treated.